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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ben Folds Concert

Okay, I should have finished this and posted it the night I started writing.

I got my Christmas present on October 27th (2009):

I went to see Ben Folds in concert at Liberty Hall in downtown Lawrence. A $35.50 ticket, and completely worth it. I've been a fan for years, and seeing him in concert was fantastic. I went with my friend, Mike Colvin. He wasn't very familiar with Ben Folds' work, but he came out calling Folds a genius, and I had to agree.

His opening act was Kate Miller-Heidke. Fantastic. Bought her CD. The CD is fairly heavily produced, but tonight it was her and a guy with a guitar, and they were great together.

Looking back ten months later, it was still worth the money ($35 per ticket). When we moved back to the USA, I had high hopes of seeing live music. Ben Folds is the only concert I've attended, if you don't count jr. high band and choir concerts. (Incidentally, if you do count them, for the most part you shouldn't. However, Central Jr. High had a pretty good choir, and their band and orchestra were not too bad, either. I fear that switching to a middle school format will blow that out of the water.)

Back to Ben Folds. He was fun to watch. It felt like he had just come over to my house to play for me and some friends. The first thing he did after sitting down at the piano was to take his cell phone and keys out of his pockets. He set them down on the strings of the piano, as it was propped open and the music stand shelf had been removed. He then realized that would cause problems, so he picked them back up and fumbled them around a bit before a stage hand could come out and take them.

He played and sang for a good three hours. I knew, or at least recognized, a lot of it, though I am still a couple of albums short of having his full catalog. The parts I didn't know were as fun as the parts I did. The amazing thing is that I think Ben himself had as much fun as the audience.

Folds sometimes caresses the music out of the piano, and sometimes he pounds it out. He reminds you that it is in fact a percussion instrument. I hope they checked afterwords to make sure the stage didn't have a depression where that piano got seriously beaten on.

It is common at concerts for the audience to sing along, but at a Ben Folds concert he insists on it for some numbers, and teaches them some special parts to sing. This clip of Ben singing Army catches the mood quite well. (Warning, he uses some naughty language in this song.) Right there in Liberty Hall, in downtown Lawrence, it felt like everyone in the room was singing as though they were by themselves in the car, driving down the highway with the windows down and belting it out along with Ben. Incredible energy.

So if you have a chance to see Ben Folds in concert, GO. You will come out bouncing and humming and thinking, "This guy is amazing."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Me, getting used to Quinten

Though perhaps I need to turn my title around.

I'm not sure for whom it is a more difficult adjustment. Presumably it's more difficult for him, as he has also had to adjust to being outside of the womb, eating, breathing, wearing diapers and dealing with all these weirdos. I'm pretty much used to all that stuff, except for the diapers. I just have to get used to having one more little person in my life.

I haven't written here for many months, with some very good excuses which will carry no water with anyone interested in reading this. Here's a quick rundown:

1. My Baker classes. I made hash of the summer class. I was absolutely sure that it was a four week class, and the way it was displayed on the website fed this belief, the same way you give extra garbage to the goat just before festival time. (C'mere, you plump, tasty-looking goat!) It was a rude surprise a month later when I found that I had skipped the last four weeks of the class. I can't quite believe they waited a month to contact me, but that was fine. It gave me something to do during...

2. ... the first three weeks of school. Yes, I started the school year doing four weeks worth of Baker assignments in three weeks. And while the first weeks of school are much easier during one's second year, they are still not easy. I had a couple of weeks of just teaching, then the fall Baker course started. I've just finished the fifth of nine weeks.

3. Summer vacation from school is actually the only kind of vacation my wife gets. Since I was home most of the time, she could actually take some time away from Quinten to get work done without having to get him to sleep first. She used a lot of that time to sew, giving a much needed financial boost to our household. I enjoyed having time with Maxine and Quinten, but found it almost as tiring as spending the day with teenagers. Next thing I know, school is starting and I have more homework to do.

4. Waking up in the middle of the night makes the rest of the day seem shorter. Quinten was actually sleeping six or seven hours most nights for a while, and I decided to capitalize on this. When he was younger, Horyon would go to him and feed him in the night, as most babies require. But after a few nights of Quinten actually sleeping, we decided that on the rare occasion when he did wake up, I would go to him. That way he would not be subject to the temptation of nursing. When Horyon goes to him, he figures it's meal time. So I take care of him at night. Sometimes that means not much, but recently I've been getting up three or four times. This makes for long days.

When I was younger I could handle it. I worked for a man who had Parkinson's disease. Two or three nights a week I would stay at his house and help him take medicine, go to the bathroom, and roll over in the night. No problem. I would go home, shower, and go to class. Fast forward 18 years, and waking up in the middle of the night just twice leaves me groggy all morning. I am not overly happy to see Quinten at 2 a.m., no matter how much I love him.

Which takes me back to Quinten. I got to spend a big portion of time with him every day during vacation. I still can't do the breast-feeding thing, but we managed to bond anyway. There are still times when only mommy will do, but those are largely feeding times.

When I come home from work, I get the biggest, two-tooth grin from the cutest little guy. When I talk to him, he bounces up and down and makes happy noises. When he is unhappy with someone else, he cheers up with me.

We're definitely getting used to each other.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I'm Employed!

This week I found for sure that I will be employed at Central Jr. High School next year. Worst case scenario, I work the same kind of hours that I am working now--four hours certified and three hours para per day. Not ideal, but I could make do with that for another year. However, the principal, Anna Stubblefield, seems pretty sure that I will be teaching five certified hours. A full time contract is six hours, so I would be just a bit short of full time. I could, like this past year, work as a para for an hour or two a day, but I have already told her that I would rather just take my five hours of teaching and have three hour for planning, as we are on an eight hour per day schedule.

A full time position comes with two hours of planning per day, one personal, and one team. The consensus on how effective team plans are depends entirely upon which members of which team you ask. Still, however effective or ineffective the time is, it is time that is not spent in the classroom exerting your will on students. Sure, in some teams you have to exert your will on your coworkers, trying to convince them that your idea is best, trying to convince them that a specific student would benefit from a certain course of action, or trying to convince them that the current meeting has exhausted any possibility of being productive and should be terminated immediately.

At any rate, I will have a job next year, which takes a huge load off of my mind. I talked with Horyon about what I should do this summer, and she said that I should not take an outside job. She wants me to stay home and do family stuff, and home stuff, and get more comfortable with Quinten.

That's about it. If I try to add any more, this will never get posted.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Three Weeks Left!

As I titled this post, I found that I have another post with the exact same title, from back in December. "Three weeks until the end of the semester, halfway through the year!"

Now I'm three weeks from the end of the year! Hard to believe.

The past week in my teaching has been heavily reflective in some ways. We had Friday off to celebrate not taking any snow days over the winter, though it was not something to celebrate at the time. Still, I was exhausted by Thursday morning. My brain is slowing down; I am slower and slower at planning, and I am less and less able to teach on weakly sketched out plans. Thursdays we have block classes, with students in our room for an hour and thirty minutes. My students are starting to say, "When will this class be finished?" In my math lab classes I've never really been sure about what I was doing. Now I'm finding that the class starts and I literally have no plan. I think about it for twenty minutes while my students sit and chat, complaining about how boring it is. Then when I start to pitch something for them to do, they complain about having to do something. Who is at fault? Me. Definitely. Do I still want to throw them out the window? Oh yes, Lord help me, I do.

I've also had some pretty good lessons. I put together one on tessellations that the kids really picked up on and enjoyed. I showed it to Jackie, our building learning coach, and she called it "a grand slam lesson," straight out of Marzano, a demigod of modern education.

I'm not doing too bad at teaching algebra. Did a fun lesson using a cooperative learning strategy (Quiz-quiz) that I picked up at a district training Unfortunately, there is no chance at all that I will be teaching it next year. My chances are better for the following year, but it still feels like I invested a lot of time in something that will be in limbo for a while.

This year I had four different classes. Two of them I made do for most of the time with a computer program that the students studied on. I tried occasional forays into serious lesson plans with them, but mostly just let them self-study. In hindsight, I did not give them enough help establishing good learning habits. Some of them learned well anyway, but some of them faked their way through the whole thing.

In other news of the past week, Horyon's sister, Chaeryon, came to stay with us for the past week, making a total of five adults and two kids in this 2-bedroom house. She came last Saturday and left this past Saturday. Last Saturday was a day of bad weather, both and in Chicago, where Chaeryon had a layover. I got to the airport just in time to get a call from her saying that she was stuck in Chicago. I drove over to Legends, having forgotten that Zona Rosa is just 10 minutes from the airport in the oppositte direction.

Tornados sighted in Lawrence, and warnings all over northeast Kansas. There were thunderstorms in the area, and wind strong enough to cancel the races at the Legend racetrack. Lots of fun. And my cell phone battery was dying.

So I went to Nebraska Furniture Mart and bought a cell phone recharger for my car. Made my evening much better, as did dinner at Wendy's. (The Wendy's here in town are not that good, so when I leave town I like to go.) Chaeryon eventually called me to say she was in Kansas, so I headed for the airport. In the dark and rain. The first part of my drive was through parking lot, not very well labeled, but I managed.

Mom had surgery a few weeks ago. Ordinarily, this would have been at the front of my mind a large percentage of the time, but I had too many other things crowding it out. She came through OK, and was able to come to Lawrence last Sunday for Quinten's baby dedication ceremony at our church. Along with Grandma MaryLou, and Tom and Debbie. It was good. I've posted the pictures I had. I don't think we got any pictures of everyone lined up in front of the church, but I'm sure pictures were taken later at our home before or after we ate fried chicken.

And lastly, we have a new arrival! I bought a netbook--a smaller, less powerful, and lighter version of a notebook pc. It is a bit difficult to type on, but very portable. I'm hoping that it will let me be productive at school when I don't have easy access to a computer, and perhaps at home as well. It's made by HP, and feels pretty solid. I just composed the previous three paragraphs on it while keeping Maxine company as she watched a video.

Horyon's parents will be with us for less than two weeks now. It's going to be tough to adjust when they go--they are very helpful with Quinten. On the other hand, the house will feel much less crowded.

No pictures. I just don't feel like messing with them. I need to go to bed, and if I stay up any later than this I will be hurting tomorrow. I'm already not planned at all for the day.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Saturday is Maxine and Daddy day. This Saturday, after getting my butt kicked by the Praxis math test, I took Maxine to the park. She is becoming quite the monkey. In the picture with her dangling, she is working her way across that bar while hanging from it. I certainly can't do that. They've told us at her new preschool that she is really good at the monkey bars for a kid her age. That's my girl.

And she likes playing with the gravel, too.

Four weeks of school to go!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More than a Month

Quinten is more than a month old!

I submitted my taxes electronically a full two days early!

I finished this semester's course from Baker!

I'm halfway through the last quarter of my first year of teaching jr. high math! And I'm starting to understand what exactly I'm doing!

I'm not entirely sure what I will be doing next year, but it will very likely be at the same school. My principal and assistant principal both want to keep me, but the decision is not entirely theirs. As you may know, Kansas, like most other states, is having some serious budget problems. The amount of money spent per student is plummeting, which means that teaching positions get cut back. Including the one I am currently working.

And Maxine is getting cooler every day. This was a bit of conversation today:
shirt or ball?
coin or puzzle?
mustache or bunny?
underwear or computer?

So I say to my 3.5-year-old daughter, Maxine, "Jumping or sauce?"

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, there is very little sense in my trying to explain it to you, as it does not come from a sensible place.)

She cocks her head to one side, thinks a bit, and says, in her most serious voice, "Sauce."

I don't laugh at this, but then she says to me, "Daddy, coin or puzzle?" I choose puzzle. She then offers me the choice of shirt or ball, followed by underwear or computer. That's a toughie. I've gotten mighty used to wearing underwear, but no computer again, ever? I went with the computer, so I may be chafing a bit from here on out.

Her last choice is "Mustache or bunny?" I've had a mustache for a long time, and am not about to give it up for a bunny, but somehow the word "bunny" slips out of my mouth, like a little poop squirt when you thought you were just going to fart.

And that's one reason why having kids is so much fun. Maxine just grabs hold of the ridiculous and runs with it.

This one's for you, Jay.

I'm also including some pictures. We had a baby dedication service at church for Quinten, and my parents came, along with Uncle Tom and Aunt Debbie, and Quinten's great-grandma, MaryLou. Horyon's parents and sister were here, too. We filled up an entire pew.

Before church we just hung around, causing trouble.
Give Quinten a kiss!Whoops. Messed up his hat.

And some just plain Quinten pics.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Some pictures

I sure needed this spring break. I am having keyboard issues. For some reason, when I try to type a single quote, instead of the double ", it does a quick find for links. So I am writing without contractions. Fortunately, I am under no contractional obligation to use them.

These pictures speak for themselves. The fam is fab. Maxine is enjoying her new brother, though definitely experiencing some stress due to his presence. She sometimes reverts to baby talk, or what she perceives to be baby talk. She is more defiant than before, though this has been coming on for the past year: her twos were not terrible, but her threes have been a bit trying.

I am working on a comparison of having a baby in Korea and having one here. The biggest similarity that I can see is that in neither country was I required to actually push a baby through any orifice of my body.



Monday, March 09, 2009

It's Baby Time!

Horyon looks pretty good, right?
Quinten Simeon Sack was born today, March 9th, 2009, at about 12:15 a.m. [sorry! 12:43 a.m.]

He weighed in at 8.5 lbs. [Actually 8 lbs 5 oz, a solid 3 oz away from half a pound.] A pretty hefty percentage of his mother's weight.

Speaking of Horyon, she did a fantastic job. She was focused through the whole thing. She breathed well, pushed when she was supposed to and didn't when she wasn't, and didn't complain nearly as much as I would have if I had to push something as big as Quenten's head through an orifice that small.

I got to be there for the whole thing. It was pretty messy, but I got to see Quentin crown, I got to cut the umbilical cord, and I got to hold him (after someone else cleaned him up).

The first contraction was at 9 p.m. That's right, less than three and a half hours of labor. We talked to Dr. Gaumer on the phone around 10, and she suggested taking some tylenol. "If the pain subsides, it's probably false labor," she tells us. "If the contractions get stronger and closer together, you need to get to the hospital."

"OK," I said, and went back to working on my weekly project for Baker. Don't know what I was thinking. I guess I figured I should try to get my homework done.

It's still not done. I emailed the teacher, and had emailed her early in the semester, so I think I'm OK.

They had the baby cleaned up, Horyon mostly cleaned up, and most everyone out of the room by 1:30 or 2:00 a.m. Kind of hard to keep track. They had to come back in every 15 minutes for an hour to massage Horyon's belly, then every half hour for another couple of hours. They moved us to a different room at some point, and took Quinten to the nursery after a good attempt at breast feeding him.

They brought him in later, maybe around 4:00, and he did much better at breast feeding this time. It's the only thing he's really going to be doing for a while, so I suppose he'll get good at it.

Sometime in there I got on a computer and emailed and Facebooked to my satisfaction. The only people we called were my mom and dad. It was one in the morning, but they didn't sound upset to be woken up.

I slept a little on this uncomfortable chair thing that transforms into an uncomfortable bedish thing. I'll have to take a picture of it later, because I think it could be in the next Transformers movie. I have no idea how much I slept, but it wasn't enough.

At 6:30 I went in to school and got my sub plans together, as well as getting a sub day submitted to the system. And I had a Pepsi. Because it was getting hard to keep my eyelids open. Might explain why I'm doing this now instead of sleeping. By the time I left school, my sub had arrived, so I got to go over the day's plans with her. Fortunately, our school learning coach, Jackie Stafford, is extremely helpful. By now they have done some cool activities that will (hopefully) help my students to do well on their state assessments right after spring break. Which is next week. Yeah. No stress there.

Then I came home. And here I am.

When we did this in Korea, it was a very different experience for me. I think I'll save that for another post.

In the mean time, I thought I'd share a couple of pictures of me with the other apple of my eye. Or is that the apple of my other eye? Not sure. Smile Maxine and Daddy!
Guess what? You're going to have a baby brother!

NO WAY!!!!!

more to come!

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.